University President Ronald A. Crutcher spoke of the institution’s many accolades in his State of the University address— but not without acknowledging the areas in which UR still needs work — in Alice Jepson Theatre at 12 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We gather here today for three simple reasons: to celebrate our shared achievements as a university community, to look ahead to new opportunities we will pursue together in the coming years and – if we are honest with ourselves – to enjoy a nice lunch,” Crutcher said in his initial remarks.
Crutcher discussed the new operating focus in place to accomplish UR’s educational mission. He summed it up as “to be and to be recognized as one of the strongest liberal arts institutions in the nation” and broke down focus efforts into three interrelated priorities: academic excellence, student quality and success, and an engaged university community.
Crutcher acknowledged UR’s privileged position in higher education and attributed this success to shared commitment among generations to be good stewards of resources, such as funds and the relationships forged in the university community, the latter of which he said were the core of UR’s educational model.
“At a time of relative plenty for the University of Richmond, we must remember that our success is neither a foregone conclusion nor a matter of chance,” he said.
Crutcher said he was confident in guiding institutional priorities in coming years because of the collective stewardship that has propelled UR forward.
“This year marks the 50th anniversary of E. Claiborne Robins Sr.’s $50 million gift to the University of Richmond, a gift so transformative that we can honestly claim that we would not be who we are today without it,” he said.
Crutcher also praised enrollment and admissions faculty for attracting a well-rounded, dynamic and diverse first-year class.
“The Class of 2023 is one of the most academically accomplished classes in our history, with record-breaking GPA and SAT scores. Moreover, they represent many backgrounds, identities, ideologies and experiences, mirroring the world they will enter upon graduation,” Crutcher said.
Crutcher listed several accolades of the Class of 2023, including a five-time national champion rock climber, who Crutcher said might be UR’s first true Spiderman.
Crutcher acknowledged the success of new fundraising initiatives — Spiders Helping Spiders and UR Giving Day — and noted increased philanthropic participation from faculty and staff as a sign of broad and growing support for UR.
“We exceeded our fundraising goal, raising over $46 million — our highest total in the last two decades,” he said.
Looking forward, Crutcher listed three ways UR will advance institutional priorities this year: making excellence inclusive, advancing freedom of expression and expanding what is meant by an engaged community.
Crutcher noted UR’s placement in the Princeton Review’s latest rankings — #2 Best Career Services, #5 Best-Run College, #7 Best Classroom Experience — but pointed out that UR did not excel in every category.
“There was also a question on the survey that informed the rankings to this effect — 'To what degree do you agree or disagree with this statement: Different types of students (black/white, rich/poor) interact frequently and easily.’ On this, we were fourth from the bottom,” he said.
Crutcher explained that, in response, he appointed a university-wide council to help all UR community members benefit from the diversity of campus by achieving meaningful understanding across cultural and ideological boundaries.
Crutcher announced that UR will build on the work of the Presidential Commission for University History and Identity and the Race & Racism project, which has operated for three years and will now be called the Race & Memory initiative.
More research on people excluded from the institutional history will be conducted, specifically on the enslaved people believed to be buried on campus and on figuring out how best to commemorate and memorialize them, Crutcher said.
On the topic of free speech, Crutcher explained the harm of only engaging with like-minded people and avoiding uncomfortable conversations.
“However comfortable this may be, it is antithetical to the spirit of higher education, which since its founding days has relied upon diversity of thought and the questioning of truth to advance its shared mission,” he said.
Crutcher noted that Reason Magazine recognized UR as one of 10 universities that stand out for encouraging civil and diverse debate, and said a task force on free expression had been established to develop a draft of a freedom of expression statement by the end of the fall semester.
On the topic of building an engaged community, Crutcher said such a community required more than giving financially and must include active participation in the university community.
“I strongly believe it is who we are as a community that explains the strong state of our university,” Crutcher said.
Before ending the address, Crutcher encouraged audience members to shake hands with the people beside them and thank them for helping make UR the great institution it is today.
“We have a duty to keep up the good work and ensure that the Richmond name remains synonymous with excellence," Crutcher concluded. "I look forward to working with you today, tomorrow and throughout the year to make that happen.”
Contact news writer Emma Davis at email@example.com.